The Baltimore Orioles haven’t been very hot this month, but these players deserve a shoutout as they continue working through a productive May.
We’re nearly two months into the regular season and the Baltimore Orioles are sitting right where we all figured they would be, in last place in the American League East. The month of May has been a particularly rough month, with the O’s failure to win a series, as of May 20th.
After dropping a 10-0 game to the Cleveland Indians on Sunday, the Orioles are now 5-11 this month, giving Baltimore a 15-31 overall record, now 13.5 games behind the first place New York Yankees.
It’s hard to sit here and try to find positives after Indians’ starter Shane Bieber just pitched a shutout, walking none and striking out 15 in an unbelievable start and new low for this Orioles lineup. But it’s Monday and I don’t want to pile on the normal agony that a Monday morning brings, so let’s keep it as upbeat as possible.
Baltimore Orioles hitters on the rise in the month of May.
As a team, the Orioles are hitting just .222 this month, are among the league’s worst in strikeout and walk rates, and have a team wRC+ of 76, only four teams have a lower mark in May. Despite the overall team struggles, two bats in the Baltimore Orioles lineup have been hot and deserve a little notice.
Third baseman Rio Ruiz didn’t get off to the hottest start with the Orioles. Many fans expressed frustration with his lack of production, but he continued to show more positives than negatives. Those who complained about Ruiz continued to only point at his batting average, but his at-bats showed me that there was more to come. Well, here we are.
Since May 1st, Ruiz is slashing .302/.375/.488 with two home runs, two doubles, and five runs driven in. His five walks are second on the team, behind only Chris Davis‘ six free passes. Ruiz is the only qualified hitter on the roster without double-digit strikeouts. Granted, he hasn’t seen as much action, but his 18.8% K-rate ranks second this month, less than a percentage point behind outfielder Dwight Smith Jr.
Of his 14 appearances in May, Ruiz has a hit in 11 of them and has reached base in 12. It’s nice to see Ruiz finally connect at the plate (owns a 133 wRC+ this month) and bring more than just his defense. He isn’t going to win a Gold Glove award, but Ruiz has been solid at third base. Advanced defensive metrics like him and he’s more than holding his own in the hot corner.
I’m not saying the Baltimore Orioles have their third baseman of the future, but with virtually no third base prospects looking to make a major league impact within the next year or two (Rylan Bannon, maybe? The 23-year-old has looked decent at third base with the Bowie Baysox, but I would have to see more to feel comfortable moving him off second base), Ruiz just might be a stable option until the future of the hot corner is figured out.
Is Stevie Wilkerson growing on you as a centerfielder for the Baltimore Orioles?
I’m going to quickly answer my own question and say no, but I do love me some Stevie Wilkerson. Joey Rickard‘s days are numbered and until Cedric Mullins or Austin Hays takes the job, playing Wilkerson in centerfield has been sort of a necessity to keep his bat in the lineup. But to be fair, he does surprise you every once in a while and for a guy who has never played the position before, Wilkerson has been ok.
Wilkerson has recorded a team-high 137 wRC+ this month, hitting .315 with an .895 OPS, also team-highs. He has seven extra-base hits in 15 games (three home runs, four doubles), while adding nine RBIs and nine runs scored.
He’s been held hitless in just four of his 16 games and has put in a multi-hit performance six times. However, there is one glaring stat that stands out on the former Clemson Tiger’s stat line. Wilkerson owns a 15/1 K/BB ratio in the month of May, which comes out to a walk rate of 1.8%. I’m not holding this against him, yet. The bat is hot and he’s learning a brand new position at the major league level. He gets a free pass for a little while, terrible pun intended.
If both of these guys can remain steady at the plate, the defense of Ruiz and versatility of Wilkerson will continue to provide noticeable value for Brandon Hyde’s lineup. They will look to continue their hot-hitting ways against the New York Yankees on Monday evening. New York is in town for four-straight games at Camden Yards. It will be the last time these two teams square off until early August.